Most visitors to Italy make a beeline for the celebrity places, and I must admit I was the same. I’ve ticked off Rome, Naples, the Amalfi Coast, Umbria and Sicily, all big-hitters, and all absolutely fantastic, don’t get me wrong. But I adore Italy and I want to see more. So when I was offered the chance to go on a 4-day trip around the Valli Giudicarie region of Trentino province, well of course I couldn’t say no!
This trip was gifted by the the Giudicarie and Comano tourism boards. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I don’t accept freebies or payment in exchange for positive reviews. All prices are correct at the time of writing.
Where is Trentino?
I’d never even heard of Trentino, let alone Valli Giudicarie, before I booked my ticket. I went because the Traverse 2019 Travel Blogger conference was held there, and after the conference I was offered the chance to explore some of the highlights of the area on a group trip with a small handful of fellow bloggers.
Trentino is a small province in the very far north of Italy, close to the Italian Alps and the border with Austria. Its capital is the astonishingly pretty and colourful city of Trento, and it’s particularly celebrated (amongst those in the know) for its spectacular scenery, which incorporates the snow-capped mountain peaks of the Dolomites, its sparkling mountain lakes, its deep valleys etched out by foaming rivers, its cute colourful villages and action-packed ski resorts. It’s such a lovely region, I can’t believe I’d never heard of it!
Where is Valli Giudicarie?
Valli Giudicarie, also known as Val Giudicarie or even just Giudicarie, is a district in the west of Trentino province. It incorporates two rivers: the Sarca and the Chiese, numerous lakes, and the Western Dolomites, also known as the Brenta Dolomites.
Valli Giudicarie has a very different feel from any of the parts of Italy I’d visited before: less obviously Italian, less flamboyant, less Mediterranean – if you will – and more Alpine, more Austrian.
Why Valli Giudicarie?
Valli Giudicarie presents a very different side to Italy. As you might expect given its location and its landscape, it’s less about beaches, sunbathing, and pizza, and more about adventure, outdoor activities, and the very best blend of Italian and Alpine culture. With loads on offer for everyone, from extreme thrill-seekers to families with children, it’s a great place to come at any time of year. And because it’s less well-known, it’s far less crowded than, say, Tuscany or Campania.
In the winter the main activity in the region is skiing, but we went in June when the sun was out and the mountain slopes covered in flowers, not snow. So here are my recommendations for some of the top things to do in Valli Giudicarie in the summer.
Top Things To Do In Valli Giudicarie in Summer
1/ Ride an e-bike up a mountain
If you think going cycling in the Alps sounds like the sort of thing only a hardcore, lycra-clad athlete with thighs of steel would do, think again. The invention of e-bikes – electric bikes powered both by pedalling and a small electric motor – has revolutionised cycling holidays around the world, especially in mountainous regions.
No longer must you pant and puff your way to the top of each hill, heart pounding, legs burning, lungs exploding, now you can glide effortlessly up, letting the bike do all the work and admiring the view as you go.
One of the best places to ride an e-bike in Valli Giudicarie is Monte Casale. This 1632-metre-high mountain offers stunning panoramic views over the region, taking in the Western Dolomites and the Alps in the distance, and down below, 7 lakes including Lake Toblino, Lake Cavedine, and Lake Garda. In spring the weather is balmy and the alpine meadows are bursting with wildflowers, making the whole experience a bit like the opening scene from the Sound of Music, except without the singing (though of course there’s nothing to stop you from doing that if you want to).
Our e-bike tour took us up a gently sloping paved road that turned into a steep unsealed track. It was my first time on an e-bike and it took me a while to get the hang of it, especially when I kept skidding on the loose gravel. But I soon learned how to get the hang of the different gears, and that it’s less scary to ride on the grass verge than on the stones. And it was certainly much easier than pedal power!
And the view from the top was just as spectacular as promised.
Of course, if you’re feeling energetic, you don’t have to get an e-bike. Regular cyclists are more than catered for, with plenty of traffic-free roads and well-signposted routes to choose from.
How to go e-biking in Valli Giudicarie
You can either take a guided e-bike tour, or rent one independently. Tours operate from April to October and depart from the Tourist Information centre in Comano Terme. Visit their website for more information on renting e-bikes in the region.
Bike rental costs from €30,00 for half a day for an adult. You can rent e-bikes from the Fantic Rental Point on Piazza Mercato in Comano Terme. Or plenty of local hotels offer e-bike rental, including:
Or click here for more hotels in Valli Giudicarie.
2/ Go hiking
With its beautiful landscapes, Valli Giudicarie offers more hiking opportunities than you can shake a stick at. If you’ve rented a car, pretty every bend in the road offers you a new, stunning view. Many areas have clearly marked self-guided hiking trails with free car parking at the start, and trails vary from a steeply challenging ascent to a gentle stroll through meadows of alpine wildflowers. Some of these routes incorporate a night in a remote mountain hut for that truly peaceful back-to-nature experience. In the summer, you can also use one of the region’s many ski lifts to whisk you straight up to the top, giving you a head start on your route.
One popular route is the hike to the top of Monte Casale. The trail leaves from a car park at Le Quadre, near Comano Terme. It takes about one and half hours to get to the top (plus time to stop and take photos!)
How to go hiking in Valli Giudicarie
Hiking is free! Just park your car (or get out of the bus or taxi) and go. There are plenty of routes and tips on the tourist information website. Make sure you take sensible footwear, waterproofs or suncream and a hat depending on the weather, and check the forecast before heading out.
3/ Go Rock Climbing
The Sarca valley is world-famous for rock climbing for three main reasons: the local limestone provides masses of natural holds suitable for all abilities, the mild climate makes it possible to climb most of the year round, and the routes are easily accessible and well-maintained by local volunteers.
With more than 11 natural climbing walls, with a total of 400 routes graded 2 to 8 in difficulty, there are plenty of opportunities for climbing enthusiasts in Valli Giudicarie.
We were taken to the Falesia Dimenticata. Known locally as one of the most beautiful rock walls in Italy, the Falesia Dimenticata is perched at the foot of the Western Dolomites, overlooking meadows filled with wildflowers. Recently re-opened and restored with a range of climbing routes to suit all levels from beginner to expert, the Falesia Dimenticata offers everyone a chance to try their hand at rock climbing in a stunning outdoor location.
I’ve done abseiling and bouldering before, but I’d never been rock climbing so I was keen to give it a try. We were strapped into harnesses and allowed to choose our route – obviously I chose the easiest one (because I’m not an idiot). Unlike indoor bouldering where the routes are marked with colours, this was simply a case of finding a hand or a foothold wherever you can and hoping for the best. I know the next photo might make me look quite competent, but in reality I was basically just being hoisted up by the guide on the end of the rope!
Still, it was fun, and for a first attempt I don’t think I did too badly!
How to go climbing in Valli Giudicarie
4/ Go River Trekking or Cayoning
Our four-day itinerary included the chance to go either river trekking or canyoning. The idea of canyoning – an adrenaline-fuelled sport involving jumping into freezing rivers and abseiling off cliffs – utterly terrified me, but if you’re a thrill-seeker then Valli Giudicarie is definitely the place to come!
Fortunately it turned out the river level was too high to do canyoning safely, so we went river trekking in the Limarò Canyon instead.
The Limarò Canyon is a spectacular gorge carved out over millennia by the powerful waters of the River Sarca. Today, the river surges along a narrow channel at the base of the canyon, while jagged limestone cliffs tower overhead, making for an epic location for a fun – and possibly wet! – adventure.
River trekking is a bit more than just going for a walk along a river. Squeezing through narrow passages between large boulders, paddling in pools, wading into the river, following trails through the woods and finding hidden beaches – it’s a fun adventure, though you’ll need to be prepared to get a bit damp and chilly.
Luckily for us (or unluckily, depending on your preferences) the water level was too high for us to actually go IN the river. Instead we hiked down a steep-sided canyon to the water’s edge, and then picked our way along, scrambling over boulders, stopping to take photos of the towering cliffs and rushing water, and sometimes using ropes to get past a particularly steep or slippery part. It’s an exhilarating way to get close to nature, and being dwarfed by the sheer rock face and the noise of the river definitely makes you feel small!
How to go river trekking in the Limarò Canyon
You can easily do the hike by yourself, or get a guide. The route covers about 3 kms between the villages of Ponte Arche and Sarche and takes about 4 hours, including a 45 minute descent down to the valley floor. The walking involves some scrambling so you need to be fairly active but it’s great for kids over 10. Directions can be found on the Trentino Tourism website.
You can also do a Limaro Canyon river trekking tour – these take place every Monday from June to September and cost €52. Tours can be booked through the Trentino Tourist Office.
5/ Relax at the Comano Terme spa
After a day of exhilarating adventures in the great outdoors, I was more than ready for some time to relax. And luckily the town of Comano Terme in Val Giudicarie has the perfect place: the spa at the Grand Hotel Terme.
Comano Terme is a resort town about 30 km from the regional capital, Trento. It’s been famous since Roman times for the healing properties of its natural spring waters, which are said to cure skin complaints including psoriasis, dermatitis and allergies. It’s also just a pretty awesome place to go for a hot soak after a day in the mountains.
The spa, hotel and wellness centre is set in a 14-acre park surrounded by the Western Dolomites, and has everything you could want or need from a spa, with indoor and outdoor pools, a range of different saunas and steam rooms, and private treatment rooms staffed by an army of beauticians, aestheticians and masseurs.
Stay there for a night or two for the full luxury experience, or just book a day pass and ease those tired muscles after a day of hiking or adventuring. Find out more about the Grand Hotel Terme and spa here.
6/ Swing through the treetops at Breg Adventure Park
Once we’d recharged our batteries, it was time for another dose of outdoor adventures – this time at Breg Adventure Park.
Breg Adventure Park is a family-friendly outdoor activity centre, the biggest in Trentino, where you get to challenge yourself on a series of treetop adventures. It’s great for kids – but it’s also pretty fun for adults too!
The site consists of 10 different routes, with suspended bridges, zip wires, climbing nets and ladders connecting one tree to the next. To protect you from tumbling to your death on the ground below, you’re connected to a very thorough system of safety cables by a harness, but even with that, being so high up is pretty nerve-wracking!
I’d never done anything like this before, and I must admit I found the responsibility quite stressful! You’re in charge of connecting and disconnecting your own harness to the safety cables, and even though the system is designed so you literally cannot get it wrong, there’s still the fear that you might somehow make a mistake and go plummeting to the ground.
I also turned out to be completely incapable of ziplining in the right direction; instead I ended up spinning round and going backwards making it impossible to catch hold at the end. Check out my Boris Johnson moment here and have a good laugh…
That said, I did enjoy the challenge, though I do think my natural state is both feet on the ground with a camera, capturing other people’s showstopping poses! I certainly wasn’t brave enough to try the 20m (66 ft) jump from Breg Sky Tower!
For more information check out the Breg Adventure Park website.
7/ Go fly fishing in the river Sarca
The Sarca river in Valle Giudicarie is famed for being the leading destination for fly fishing in Italy. Its 300 km of waters, which include the main branch of the river as well as numerous streams and lakes, are teeming with a variety of fish including trout and char. But before you get ideas of a delicious grilled trout dinner, think again. All of Giudicarie’s waterways are catch-and-release only, maintaining the sustainability of the fish stocks and preserving the fishing opportunities for future visitors.
If you’ve ever seen the film A River Runs Through It starring Brad Pitt, you’ll have some idea what fishing in Valli Giudicarie can be like. The river flowing briskly by, sun sparking on the water, the soft swish of the fishing line, the gentle buzz of insects. It’s a great way to relax and experience a slower pace of life for a few hours.
You don’t have to be an expert fly-fisher to give it a go. For our introduction, we were taken to an educational centre called Casa del Parco ‘Acqua Life’. After a short explanation we were taking outside and shown how to cast, before having a go in the centre’s own lake. I was assured that there were actual fish in the lake, though sadly I didn’t manage to catch one!
How to go fishing in Valli Giudicarie
If you’re new to fishing or to the region, consider hiring one of the Trentino Fishing Guides, expert anglers who can accompany you to the best fishing spots and give you tips and advice
You’ll need a permit from the tourist information office – but that permit covers you for the entire region. For more information check out their website.
8/ Go wine tasting (and drinking!)
This is Italy, home of prosecco and chianti, so of course no trip to Valli Giudicarie would be complete without a wine tasting experience. Thanks to its fresh, sunny summers and rolling green hillsides watered by mountain streams, the entire region of Trentino is perfect for viticulture, with dozens of small local producers churning out a wide range of different wines.
On our first night in the region we were given the chance to try a sparkling wine called Trento DOC or Trentodoc. Exclusive to the region, Trento DOC is to Italy what champagne is to France – made using the same techniques, and absolutely delicious. It’s drier than prosecco but sweeter than champagne but less expensive. Win!
Many of the region’s vineyards offer tours and talks with, of course, a chance to sample their products. The one we visited was called Filanda de Boron, a small-scale organic winery that dates back 5 generations of farmers. Here, owner Nicola Del Monte showed us his small museum showcasing antique farming tools, before giving us some of his wine to sample. They don’t use pesticides here – the grapes have been selectively bred to be naturally resistant – so you can rest assured that these wines are not only delicious but also good for you and the environment.
How to go wine tasting in Valli Giudicarie
You can find out more about the region’s wineries and book tours through the Trentino Tourist office.
9/ Visit Trento
A visit to Valli Giudicairie would not be complete without a few days in the regional capital, Trento. Trento is the capital city of Trentino, so while it’s not technically in Valli Giudicarie district, you’re almost certain to pass through on your way. And lucky for you, because Trento is arguably one of the prettiest and most woefully-unappreciated cities in the whole of Italy. Unlike Rome and Venice with their crowds and overpriced coffees, Trento is a calm haven from the tourist babble, with picturesque, narrow, winding streets and historic houses lovingly-restored and painted in shades of pastel yellow, orange and blue.
Although it’s small, there’s still plenty to do for a few days in Trento. Visit the medieval city centre with its towering cathedral and houses painted with gorgeous frescoes, or check out Buonconsiglio Castle, a 13th-century fortification boasting opulent rooms crammed with art, fragrant gardens planted with lavender and roses, and fantastic views over the city’s rooftops.
Later, you can take the cable car from just behind the railway station, over the Adige River and up to the top of Mount Bodone to check out the amazing view of the city. From here you can either take a short walk around the hillside town of Sardagna, or head back down for a coffee and a slice of apple strudel in one of Trento’s many picturesque squares.
10/ Enjoy the food
Of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without massively overindulging in shedloads of food. And our trip round Valli Giudicarie was no exception.
As well as all the usual typical Italian delights, such as pizza, pasta, and cheese on everything, the region has a culinary style all its own, blending the best of Italian cuisine with Austrian/Alpine delicacies and making the most of the many local products that are farmed and produced here.
Top traditional dishes are polenta with locally sourced venison, pork or rabbit; cured meats, freshly-caught trout from the rivers, a wide range of mountain cheeses, and Austrian-inspired desserts like apple strudel made with locally-grown fruit.
Where to eat in Valli Giudicarie
Here are some of the places we were lucky enough to eat during our trip:
Ristorante Pizzeria Alpino – cosy and welcoming, with lots of local dishes on offer.
Osteria Fiore – homely and traditional, serving local meats and delicious pasta.
Zen Café – a relaxed lunchtime café offering pizza, salads, and excellent gelato.
La Contea Pizzeria, Bolbeno – a large family-friendly restaurant serving a huge variety of dishes. My salad was enormous and delicious.
Gelateria Cherry, Trento – supposedly the best gelateria in the city. Try the hazelnut!
Where to stay in Valli Giudicarie
Our 4-night visit involved staying in two very different, but equally charming places.
Maso Pertener in Vigo Lomaso is a traditional Italian farmstay, or agroturismo. Agroturismo is a growing Italian trend where small-scale farmers open up their farms to guests. It’s a wonderful way to get back to nature, meet the locals, and try their products.
Maso Pertener is only about a year old, and with its large, beautifully-decorated rooms, stunning views across the valley, and warm welcome it’s a genuinely lovely place to stay.
Albergo Trento is in a town called Breguzzo. Rooms in Albergo Trento are traditionally-decorated with a cosy alpine feel and very comfortable, and the hotel is well-situated in the middle of the town with an excellent restaurant attached (the fish and pasta were both delicious) and other bars and shops nearby.
If you’re planning on visiting Valli Giudicarie, or Trentino in general, I recommend getting your hands on the Trentino Guest card. This comes with an app, and gets you loads of discounts including free public transport around the region and free entry to over 60 museums. Find out more at the Trentino Guest card site.
Have you been to Trentino or Valli Giudicarie? What did you like about it? Have I missed anything? I’d love to hear your comments below!
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